Number Eight Wire – Review by Vanessa Proctor

anthology coverNumber Eight Wire is the long-awaited Fourth New Zealand Haiku Anthology. The last anthology, the excellent The Taste of Nashi, was published a decade ago. The title Number Eight Wire is a reference from a haiku by Karen Peterson Butterworth to the New Zealand trait of innovation and resourcefulness – to be able to mend anything with number eight wire. It’s a fitting title which holds together a strong selection of 330 haiku from 70 poets which are, as the editors state in the introduction, ‘100% pure Aotearoa’, yet also universal.

In this refreshing collection, there are gems on every page. Perhaps readers who are not familiar with New Zealand will need to look words up, but that adds to the uniqueness of poetry set in a particular region. The following haiku could only be set in New Zealand:

under grey clouds
a tui
uncorks his song

Richard von Sturmer                                   

on Aoraki
snow still lies
from Kupe’s time

Neil Whitehead


xautumn dark   under our boots   kohekohe stars

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxNola Borrell

The anthology is substantial at 150 pages. It is beautifully produced with quality cream paper and generally three haiku on a page spaced so that the poems have room to breathe. Divided into seasons in the traditional way, each section is introduced with the reproduction of a New Zealand stamp which adds colour and interest to the book. Poems have been carefully selected to produce a meaningful flow throughout the anthology, creating a cohesive, assured collection. While many of the haiku feature the natural world, which is ever present in New Zealand, there are also many accomplished senryu. The wonderfully quirky New Zealand sense of humour surfaces often in this anthology:

long wait backstage –
the evil giant reads
a self-improvement book

xCatherine Bullock                                        

surprising me
with plastic windmills –
two nuns

   Anne Hollier Ruddy

The haiku scene in New Zealand has been vibrant for decades and there is much evidence of this confidence in form and variety of subject matter in Number Eight Wire. There are familiar names, some poets who are sadly no longer with us, and a number of new names of poets who have come to haiku more recently, which is most encouraging for the future of haiku in New Zealand. The evidence here is that it is going from strength to strength. This reviewer read through the anthology and then immediately turned back to the beginning to read it again, such is the quality of the work. This must-have anthology sets the bar high. It shows how regional influences on haiku can add life, colour and a freshness to the form, creating something really special.

mountain stream –
gathering dawn
to itself

xJohn O’Connor


Number Eight Wire: The Fourth New Zealand Haiku Anthology edited by Sandra Simpson and Margaret Beverland Piwakawaka Press, Tauranga (2019) ISBN 9780473464776

Ordering details:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxVanessa Proctor


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